Asian Cup Matchday: Bahrain Round of 16 Preview

Photo Credit: TheKFA Instagram. The Hwang Trio in training.

With the group stages finished and Group C won with a more convincing performance against China, the Taeguk Warriors will now begin the knockout stage with a matchup against Bahrain, the third-place finisher in Group A. Since the whistle blew at full time in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday night, there have been a few storylines to emerge from the Korean camp, so let’s talk about those and how they could affect the match

How will injuries affect the squad?

The most unfortunate story to come out of the Korea camp in the past few days was that Ki Sungyeung’s injury was misdiagnosed and he will not be able to play in any knockout matches. He has returned to Newcastle for recovery from his torn hamstring.

When he initially suffered the injury in the match against the Philippines, it was reported as a minor hamstring injury that would require a week of rest. Ki was eased back into training and all seemed well for a return in the Bahrain match, either as a sub or starter. However, Steve Han put out a great Twitter thread about the reasons behind Ki’s withdrawal from the squad.

In Ki’s case as well as that of Lee Jaesung, who is still not available from his foot injury, the medical staff the KFA brought to the tournament misdiagnosed the injuries and had them resume training prematurely. For Ki, they thought it was a thigh injury. For Lee, a sprained toe. It’s not a great look for your volunteer medical team, who aren’t sports medicine specialists, to inhibit the recovery of two of the squad’s best players.

To go for a silver lining on this, let’s all hope that Paulo Bento, who has made it a point to ask the KFA to modernize other aspects of the national team setup, will push for the medical staff to be upgraded as soon as possible. It was some mixture of cost-cutting and poor planning that put this practice into place and hopefully Bento demands a more professional medical staff after this fiasco.

On the pitch, Hwang Inbeom will be asked to continue his development into the calm and collected midfield distributor/attacker Ki always was in partnership with Jung Wooyoung. The new partnership has done well thus far, but the pressure will only build as we progress towards the final.

Will Kim Moonhwan keep his starting place?

While Lee Yong served his yellow card suspension for the match against China, Kim Moonhwan shined in his place. Kim Moonhwan is a bit more confident in his dribbling and will attempt take-ons or try to wriggle around defenders when moving forward. He’s also not just a fullback that goes for lofted crosses (as evidenced by his early low cross to Son for the penalty), which is Lee Yong’s m.o. for the most part. Where Lee Yong is solid and safe, Kim Moonhwan is more adventurous and creative. Did the China match make an impression on Bento’s rightback selection?

The Opponent

In the group stages, Bahrain performed well in a pretty evenly-matched Group A. They drew their first match with the host UAE after a bit of favorable refereeing led to a late penalty. However, Bahrain impressed in that match and many felt that they would have been deserved winners had the penalty not been given. They lost to Thailand on a Songkrasin screamer but then leapfrogged India into third with a crucial victory on the third matchday. We should have enough to get by them but their group stage performances should be a reminder that they’ll pose danger especially if given time to exploit space around the box.

Predicted Lineup

I think the lineup will be unchanged in the attack since getting Captain Sonny back did kickstart our offense a bit. In defense I hope Kim Moonhwan did convince Bento that he offers something different and useful that Lee Yong doesn’t have in his locker. Let’s hope this lineup continues to develop their chemistry and scores even more than last Wednesday!

Match Info

Where: Rashid Stadium, Dubai

When: 10 PM KST, 8 AM EST, 5 PM Local Time

Streams: (Seeing an error message atm),,

Prediction: I’m going to put some positive vibes out there and say 3-0 Korea. Let’s get it!

About Michael Welch 89 Articles
That Halfie Korean-American who loves football (I mean, soccer).


  1. I haven’t done any research so want to ask on this page, is this sort of practice with using unspecialized medical volunteers known to any other countries? Could you imagine if the USA Men’s Basketball team had volunteer doctors?

    • I haven’t researched either but I imagine not having specialized team doctors for your national team is more widespread than you might think. Yes of course all of the top nations probably have them, but smaller nations from Central America, Asia, or Africa? Probably not.

      In Korea’s case, I think one thing to keep in mind is that the KFA has never been well-run and also doesn’t have as big a budget as you would think for such a successful nation. For example, we can’t afford to hire the top, top international managers because our salary offer is too low. So as a result, I think there was discussion about where the KFA could save money and they decided to go cheap on the medical team. Steve Han said the last time we had a full-time team doctor was at the 2002 World Cup, the one we hosted. That one it makes sense that the KFA would want to go all out. But over time and maybe with interest in the national team and sponsorships/government funding waning, the KFA just decided to cut corners.

      The hopeful silver lining is that people are getting back into the national team and the matches are getting more hype. That means that more companies will want to jump on board with the KFA as sponsors. Also, Paulo Bento made it a point to have clear conditions when he got hired. He wanted an office at the KFA training facility. He wanted to bring all his own position coaches with him. He wanted his training sessions to be open to Korean coaches so they can learn his techniques and tactics. I hope his next condition is that the KFA appoint a full-time sports medicine doctor who can help run the physio/medical team at big tournaments. I gotta imagine that Bento is pissed that the volunteer doctors misdiagnosed 2 of Korea’s best players. We still don’t even know if Lee Jaesung will be able to play in the knockouts after his foot injury.

      • This is a crazy story! Please stay on top of this for us. Also, I think Bento trying to get all of the Korean coaches to implement his tactics from youth on up is a great idea. Again, surprised that KFA wasn’t doing this before.

  2. Jumping the gun, but want to respond to something I read. True we only have 2 days until the quarterfinals, but we play Qatar/Iraq and their game is starting now. Our opponent also has 2 days of rest, and if Qatar wins, they had one less day than us before today.

    Rest time, in this case, is not a concern. Every team has to deal with the same problems of rest/travel, and every team has players dealing with injuries. That’s pretty normal in a tournament, and I think Korea is fine.

    The noise that suddenly arose this past weekend would be more worrisome to me: 1) misdiagnosed injuries/inept KFA, 2) Lee Seungwoo “bottle incident”, 3) Kim Minjae transfer rumors, 4) Lee Chung Yong going to Korea and back. I was worried that we might pay the price today, but thankfully Kim Jinsu stepped up when he needed to upon being substituted. (LSW on the other hand did not look convincing to me… looked panicked). We weren’t great today, maybe the reasons above were the reason, but a result is a result, we’re moving on, time to put everything behind us and focus on our next (harder) opponent.

    • and who knows, Iraq and Qatar are pretty equal, I’m thinking that game will be a grind and tire them out. You never know, maybe they go to extra time too

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